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Nonmonetary Remedies

In certain situations, the court has the right to order that a person be prevented from or, more rarely, required to do something. This order is called an injunction. To obtain a temporary injunction, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's actions would cause irreparable harm and that the plaintiff has a substantial chance of prevailing in a trial. Temporary injunctions are frequently used in environmental law disputes, such as attempts to stop the clear-cutting of national forests. In these cases, a temporary injunction would be appropriate because the cutting of the trees would constitute irreparable harm.

When a temporary injunction is granted, the plaintiff must post a bond that is sufficient to compensate the defendant if the plaintiff does not prevail in the case. If the plaintiff does prevail, the bond is refunded, and the court may enter a permanent injunction to prevent the complained-of conduct. Violating an injunction is contempt of court and may be punished by a fine or imprisonment.

Injunctions are often requested in medical cases such as medical staff disputes, withdrawal of life support cases, and cases involving the treatment of children. In these cases, the complaining party attempts to convince the court that since human lives are at stake, the court must step in. In some cases, courts have ordered pregnant women not to have abortions or to submit to certain types of medical care ordered by their physicians. These are controversial actions and will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent chapters.

A new area of interest to physicians is the enforcement of personal service contracts, such as research contracts or employment contracts. The law has traditionally refused to order people to render personal services. As an example, assume that you sign a contract to perform a study for the Dreck drug company but never complete the study. Dreck is furious and sues to force you to complete the study. You offer to return the money you have been paid, but Dreck refuses, claiming that you must complete the study so approval of its drug will not be delayed. Since you have a detailed agreement as to how the study is to be conducted, why should the court refuse to force you to comply with the agreement?

Courts like to make rulings that end disputes. If the court orders you to complete the study, it will be faced with determining whether you are working fast enough, if your work is of acceptable quality, and other issues as to the performance of the contract. The court's ruling would only create new disputes. This pragmatism, combined with a reluctance to interfere in individual behavior, results in the policy of refusing to enforce personal services contracts. The court may award the plaintiff monetary damages for any extra costs entailed in having someone else complete the study.

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